NFL begins 101st season amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is pictured on Oct. 6, 2019. (All-Pro Reels / Wikimedia Commons)

Chiefs offense looks scary in opener vs Texans

The defending Super Bowl champions picked up right where they left off last season, defeating the Houston Texans 34–⁠20 in the NFL’s Thursday night opener. After punting on their first possession, the Kansas City Chiefs scored on four consecutive drives to end the first half and begin the second. Chiefs quarterback Pat Mahomes was in MVP form, completing 24 of 32 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill each caught touchdowns. The potent Chiefs offense that was second in the NFL in points per game a year ago may be even better this year, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the reason why. Head coach Andy Reid gave the talented rookie running back out of LSU 25 carries, which he turned into 138 yards and a touchdown. Houston’s offense struggled to get going throughout the night. David Johnson was a lone bright spot in his Texans’ debut, rushing 11 times for 77 yards and a touchdown.

 

Joe Burrow makes NFL debut in Bengals’ loss to Chargers

Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner and first overall draft pick Joe Burrow made his NFL debut with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Burrow threw for 193 yards and showed off his sneaky speed with eight rushes for 46 yards and a touchdown. Down 16–⁠13 late in the fourth quarter, Burrow marched the Bengals down the field on a 14-play 69-yard drive to set up a game-tying 31-yard field goal attempt with seven seconds left. Kicker Randy Bullock pushed it wide right, and the Los Angeles Chargers walked away with the victory. 

 

Cam Newton wins Patriots debut

Cam Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, made his first start as the New England Patriots quarterback against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Newton had an efficient day throwing the ball, completing 15 of his 19 passes for 155 yards. However, it was Newton the rusher that really gave the Dolphins headaches. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels drew up 15 designed rushes, which Newton turned into 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Dolphins were haunted by turnovers as the Patriots defense that forced the most takeaways in the NFL a year ago picked off Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick three times. The Patriots won 21–⁠11.

 

Rodgers-Adams connection deadly in Packers win over Vikings

Through a quarter and a half, the Packers-Vikings game looked like a defensive battle. Then the Green Bay Packers scored touchdowns on five of their next six possessions. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was absolutely on fire, throwing for 364 yards and four touchdowns. His star target Davante Adams caught fourteen of those balls for 156 yards and two touchdowns. The Minnesota Vikings offense caught fire as well with quarterback Kirk Cousins finding Adam Thielen for a pair of second-half scores, but it was too little too late. The two teams combined to score touchdowns on six of the last seven drives of the game. The Packers won 43–⁠34.

 

Brady struggles against Saints in first game with Bucs

The New Orleans Saints beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34–⁠23 in Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady’s first game since leaving the New England Patriots. The much anticipated clash between NFC South division rivals and aging future hall of fame quarterbacks was FOX’s most watched Week 1 game since the 2016 season. Brady couldn’t have scripted the first drive of his Buccaneers career any better. The Buccaneers grinded out a flawless nine-play, 85 yard drive that was capped off by a patented Brady QB sneak for six. After that, the Buccaneers offense stalled in a big way. The offense went three and out three times, and Brady threw two interceptions including a pick six to Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The Saints offense capitalized on Buccaneer turnovers and consistently good field position in the victory. Quarterback Drew Brees threw touchdowns to Alvin Kamara and offseason acquisition Emmanuel Sanders. Kamara, the dynamic running back who recently agreed on a five-year $75 million extension with the Saints, added another touchdown on the ground.

 

Questionable call dooms Mike McCarthy in Cowboys debut

Mike McCarthy’s tendency to make questionable decisions in close games was part of the reason he lost his job as head coach of the Green Bay Packers two years ago. McCarthy was back at it again in his first game as the Dallas Cowboys head coach. With less than 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys trailing 20–⁠17, McCarthy elected to go for it on a fourth down and three at the Rams 11 yard line, rather than tie the game with a field goal. Dak Prescott completed a pass to CeeDee Lamb who got stuffed short of the first down marker, and the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs. The Cowboys had another chance with under a minute left in the fourth quarter, but a 47-yard completion from Prescott to Michael Gallup that would have put the Cowboys well within field goal range was negated due to a controversial offensive pass interference call on Gallup. The Rams won 20–⁠17 in what was their first game in the brand new $5 billion SoFi stadium. 

 

Steelers top Giants in Roethlisberger’s return

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones threw two costly interceptions in Monday night’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers offense scored 10 points off the turnovers and won the game by 10, 26–16. After missing the majority of last season with a right elbow injury, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked sharp, throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster enjoyed the return of his quarterback, catching six balls for 69 yards and two touchdowns. The stalwart Steelers defense completely shut down Saquon Barkley, one of the best running backs in football. Barkley rushed 15 times for just six yards, an average of 0.4 yards per carry. 

 

Gostkowski hits the one that matters on Monday Night Football

By all accounts, new Tennessee Titans kicker Stephen Gostowski was having the worst possible game for the Titans on Monday night against the Denver Broncos. In a tight game the kicker missed three field goals and an extra point. Trailing 14–⁠13 late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Ryan Tannehill and power running back Derrick Henry led the Titans on an 83 yard drive. With 24 seconds left, the Titans couldn’t convert on a third down from the Broncos seven yard line, and Gostowski was called upon once again. This time Gostkowski drilled the football through the uprights, and the Titans won 16–⁠13. Whether or not he’ll still have his job tomorrow morning remains to be seen. 

 

Other scores from around the NFL

The Buffalo Bills defeated the New York Jets 27–⁠17. Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns and added another 57 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Last year’s league MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens crushed the Cleveland Browns 38–⁠6. Jackson threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts 27–⁠20. Quarterback Gardner Minshew threw three touchdowns for the Jaguars. The Colts lost running back Marlon Mack for the season after he suffered a torn achilles in the second quarter. Nyheim Hines played well in Mack’s absence, scoring two touchdowns for the Colts. 

A strong defensive performance led the Washington Football Team to a 27–⁠17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Washington’s defense sacked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz eight times and forced three Eagles turnovers in the win. The Eagles went up 17–⁠0 to start the game before Washington scored 27 unanswered points.

Detroit Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift dropped what would have been the game winning touchdown with 11 seconds left in the Lions’ 27–⁠23 loss to the Chicago Bears. The Bears trailed 23–⁠6 before quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw three fourth quarter touchdowns.

Russel Wilson put on a clinic, and the Seattle Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons 38–⁠25. Wilson completed 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks’ victory. Three Falcons receivers, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, went over 100 yards in the loss.

The Las Vegas Raiders defeated the Carolina Panthers 34–⁠30 behind three touchdowns from running back Josh Jacobs. Jacobs’ third touchdown put the Raiders up for good with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Arizona Cardinals beat the reigning NFC champion San Francisco 49ers 24–⁠20. DeAndre Hopkins showed why he just became the highest paid non-quarterback in NFL history, catching 14 balls for 151 yards. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray torched the 49ers defense on the ground, rushing 13 times for 91 yards including a crucial 22 yard fourth quarter touchdown. 

 

Masks on

The NFL’s opening weekend was played mostly without fans, although some teams allowed fans at a limited capacity. Coaches and referees wore masks, or in Andy Reid’s case, a face shield that appeared to fog up throughout the Chiefs’ Thursday night victory. The NFL apparently was not pleased with some coaches’ lack of compliance with the mask mandate and sent out a memo threatening punishment if coaches don’t mask up on the sidelines.

 

Player protests

Players around the league protested police brutality and systemic racism in some form over the weekend. Many players took a knee during the national anthem. Both the Jets and Bills decided to stay in the locker room during the anthem. After the ball was kicked off in the Falcons-Seahawks game, every player on the field stood still then took a knee. The Miami Dolphins released a team video in which they criticized perceived hypocrisy from the NFL in their response to social justice movements. The NFL played a social justice video before each game which called for an end to racism and featured Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who has been out of the league since 2016, when he began kneeling during the anthem to protest systemic racism. Kaepernick’s friend and the second player to kneel with him Eric Reid tweeted “[NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell uses video of Colin courageously kneeling to legitimize their disingenuous PR while simultaneously perpetuating systemic oppression, that the video he’s using fights against, by continuing to rob Colin of his career. It’s diabolical.”


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